There are few things Jenn and I love more than a themed dinner. Our plant party immediately inspired us to create a vibrant menu of plant-based dishes for our hungry gardeners. To keep in the “green” spirit of the event, we scouted out zero-waste recipes to nourish our guests.
BEET IT MOCKTAIL
The weird looks we got when purchasing a shopping cart full of red beets ended up being totally worth it. This earthy, deep ruby red mocktail can be diluted with soda water, or enjoyed as is. We scrubbed and peeled our beets the night before (which was a bit labor intensive), but our Breville Juicer quickly churned out fresh juice the day of, so mixing everything up was a breeze.
2 cups Beet Juice
½ cup Ginger Juice
½ cup Lemon Juice
GREEN GODDESS COCKTAIL
Before we knew it, our dispenser full of this green goodness was empty! This gin and juice cocktail was a huge hit, the perfect mix of refreshing and boozy. If you’re drinking a healthy green juice, that offsets the alcohol, right? Yeah, we’ll go with that logic...
2 cups Celery Juice
½ cup Parsley Juice
½ cup Lemon Juice
½ cup Orange Zest and Peppercorn simple syrup (see recipe below)
2 cups Gin
Mix all ingredients
Pour over ice
Garnish glass with a candied orange slice
ORANGE ZEST AND PEPPERCORN SYRUP
Citrus and spice are the perfect flavors to compliment our fresh green juice above. We made this syrup a few days before to really let the flavors meld before adding them to our gin cocktail.
Makes 2 cups
1 ½ cup sugar
3 cups water
Peel of 2 medium oranges
1 Tbs whole peppercorns
Boil sugar and water until sugar dissolves
Add orange peel and peppercorns, reduce to simmer
Simmer until liquid is syrupy and reduced to about 2 cups
Syrup should be fragrant
BEETS, GREENS AND GRAINS SALAD
This vegan salad is the perfect mix of grains, greens and beautiful beets. This reduced-waste dish allowed us to use every part of the beet; instead of tossing the green tops, we added them into the salad! Just make sure to wash the beet tops thoroughly.
8 medium-size beets, tops removed and scrubbed
4 ounces cooked quinoa
12 ounces hearty green such as beet greens, lacinato kale, radish greens cut into strips
Approximately 1 cup Citrus Dijon Vinaigrette
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Wrap the beets individually in aluminum foil and place them on a sheet pan. Roast them for 50 minutes to 1 hour, depending on their size, until a small sharp knife inserted in the middle indicates that they are tender. Unwrap each beet and set aside for 10 minutes, until cool enough to handle. Peel the beets with a small, sharp knife over a piece of parchment paper to prevent staining your cutting board.
Meanwhile, make the dressing
While the beets are still warm, cut each one in half and then each half into 4 to 6 wedges and place them in a large mixing bowl. As you're cutting the beets, toss them with half of the vinaigrette (warm beets absorb more vinaigrette), 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Taste for seasonings.
Place the greens in a separate bowl and toss it with enough vinaigrette to moisten. Put the greens on a serving platter and then arrange the quinoa and beets on top. Drizzle with additional vinaigrette, if desired, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and serve warm or at room temperature.
CITRUS DIJON VINAIGRETTE
This bright, citrus dressing paired perfectly with our beet green salad.
Makes 1 cup
¼ cup champagne or white wine vinegar
¼ cup orange juice
½ cup good olive oil
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Whisk all ingredients together until fully emulsified
CARROT TART WITH RICOTTA
This easy, flavorful tart brings a nice bit of color to the table. We especially loved that it could be baked up to 6 hours in advance. To keep things easy for the day of the party, we cooked the carrots and onion together the night before. Try a using rainbow colored carrots if you’re feeling crazy.
2 cups ricotta
¼ cup heavy cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced (we used a mandoline for this)
4 large carrots (about 8 ounces), scrubbed, thinly sliced into coins
1 package frozen puff pastry, thawed (put in the fridge the night before)
1 large egg, beaten to blend
¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh chives
2 tbsp small dill sprigs
Preheat oven to 425°. Whisk ricotta and cream in a small bowl; season with salt and pepper.
Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Cook onion, stirring occasionally, until soft and starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add carrots and cook, tossing occasionally, 2 minutes; season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Lightly roll out pastry on parchment paper just to smooth out creases. Transfer on paper to a baking sheet. Lightly score a 1" border around pastry. Brush with egg; bake until golden and slightly puffed, 10–15 minutes.
Remove from oven and spread ricotta mixture over pastry, staying within border. Scatter reserved onion and carrots over top. Bake until carrots are tender, onion is starting to caramelize, and pastry is golden brown and baked through, 30–35 minutes. Let cool. Scatter with the herbs artfully onto your masterpiece!
Do Ahead: Tart can be baked 6 hours ahead. Store tightly wrapped at room temperature.
GIGLI PAST WITH ROAST PUMPKIN AND KALE STEM PESTO
This reduced-waste pasta dish was delicious and seasonal...that’s right, pumpkin season is upon us! Just omit the cheese in the pesto and you’ve got a great option for vegan guests this Thanksgiving. While Gigli was one of the worst decisions Jennifer Lopez ever made, this pasta version got two thumbs up from our guests! This pasta has perfect little ridges that grab all that pesto-y goodness.
12 ounces of gigli pasta (bowtie, rigatoni, penne, or orecchiette would work also)
¼ to ½ cup kale stem pesto (see recipe below)
2 cups roast pumpkin with thyme (see recipe below)
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water; drain pasta, and return to pot. Add olive oil, kale stem pesto, and pasta water if needed; toss until coated.
Gently fold in roasted pumpkin; season with salt and pepper. Divide among serving bowls, and serve immediately.
Pasta can also be made ahead, cooled, then toss with pesto and pumpkin for a room temp pasta salad.
ROAST PUMPKIN WITH THYME
The hardest part of this dish was actually cutting the “Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown”-sized monster we lugged from Whole Foods. The pumpkin did double-duty as the star ingredient AND as the perfect serving bowl!
1 medium sugar pumpkin (about 4 pounds) or a white pumpkin like the one we used, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch chunks
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup fresh thyme leaves
Coarse salt and ground pepper
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss pumpkin and thyme and oil, fully coating; season with salt and pepper.
Divide between two large rimmed baking sheets
Roast until pumpkin is tender, 20 to 25 minutes, tossing once and rotating sheets halfway through.
KALE STEM PESTO
Living in California, we’ve used kale in just about everything from smoothies to salads, but those tough stems always ended up in the trash. Not anymore! Save those stems and turn them into an easy pesto. If you need to go vegan with this dish, feel free to sub out the parmesan/pecorino for Daiya or your preferred brand of vegan cheese.
Serves about 1 cup of pesto
1 heaping cup chopped kale stems
3 cloves of garlic
½ cup toasted pine nuts
big handful of parsley
juice & zest of 1 lemon
salt & pepper
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
Place stem pieces in a small pot and fill it with enough water to cover them halfway up. Toss in the garlic and a few pinches of salt. Simmer until the stems become knife-tender (about 15 minutes).
Drain and let cool.
In a food processor, pulse the cooked stems. Add everything else, drizzling in the olive oil at the end. Taste and adjust to your liking.
SPAGHETTI SQUASH CASSEROLE (VEGAN)
This dish is the best of both worlds; it has the coziness of an autumnal casserole, and it’s packed with healthy veggies. Jenn has made many different versions of this winning dish, and each time I end up having sevenths. It’s just that good.
3 Tbsp olive oil
One 3-pound spaghetti squash
3/4 pound soy chorizo (or any favorite sausage), bulk or removed from casings
2 cups thinly sliced kale leaves (stems removed)
2 cups sliced crimini mushrooms (white button mushrooms would work as well)
½ cup nutritional yeast (we like Bragg’s)
½ cup bread crumbs
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven and prepare pan: Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).
Prep the spaghetti squash: With a sharp chef's knife, score the spaghetti squash all the way around lengthwise.
Microwave the squash for 1 minute, this will weaken the area you scored with your knife making it easier to cut the squash in half lengthwise.
Then stand the squash up on one of the ends to stabilize it, and cut the squash in half, top to bottom.
Scoop out any seeds and stringy bits inside, prick the insides of the squash with a fork, sprinkle with salt and place the squash halves cut-side down on a foil lined sheet pan.
Bake at 375°F (190°C) for 30 to 40 minutes until you can easily poke the insides of the squash with a fork. While the squash is roasting, coat the kale and mushrooms separately in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread out the kale onto one rimmed sheet pan and the mushrooms on another.
Roast mushrooms and kale for 10-15 minutes at 375°F
Remove from oven and let sit until cool enough to handle. Then using the tines of a fork, scrape out the "spaghetti"-like strands of the squash to a bowl.
Combine “spaghetti”, kale, mushrooms, and soy chorizo (removed from casing) in a large bowl.
Spread mixture into a casserole dish (ceramic or glass), top with nutritional yeast and breadcrumbs. Sprinkle lightly with olive oil.
Broil until topping is golden brown, serve immediately. (casserole can be made ahead of time without topping up to 2 days ahead, then top with bread crumb mixture, oil, and broil immediately prior to serving.
Breaking news: Cobblers aren’t just for dessert anymore! This savory dish has us thinking about all the things we could bake under this biscuity-cheesy crust. The only complaint our guests had? That would should have made more. Who knew such a crowd-pleaser would be so easy to cobble together (sorry, we couldn’t resist)!
For the filling
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 pounds cherry tomatoes
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
For the biscuit topping
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup grated Cheddar cheese (2 1/4 ounces), plus 4 tablespoon, for sprinkling
1 ½ cups heavy cream, plus more for brushing
Make the filling:
Heat oil in a large high-sided skillet over medium heat. Cook onions, stirring occasionally, until caramelized, about 25 minutes. Add garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Let cool. (We did this step the night before)
Toss onion mixture, tomatoes, flour, and red-pepper flakes with 1 ½ teaspoons salt and some pepper.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Make the biscuit topping: Whisk together flour, baking powder, and 1 teaspoon salt in a bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter or rub in with your fingers until small clumps form. Stir in cheese, then add cream, stirring with a fork to combine until dough forms. (Dough will be pretty sticky, don’t worry!)
Transfer tomato mixture to a 2-quart baking dish (2 inches deep). Spoon 7 clumps of biscuit dough (about ½ cup each) over top in a circle, leaving center open. Brush dough with cream, and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon cheese. Bake until tomatoes are bubbling in the center and biscuits are golden brown, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack. Let cool for 20 minutes.
Whenever I have an ingredient I’m unsure of what to do with, I turn to the most dependable cookbook in my kitchen; the trusty New York Times Cookbook. My mother has always insisted that every recipe in this book is a winner, and I have to agree. This beloved torte recipe is a NYT classic, and couldn’t be easier to make.
1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tsp (5 grams) baking powder
Large pinch of salt
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar plus 1 to 2 tablespoon
½ cup (115 grams or 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
12 smallish purple Italian purple plums, halved and pitted ( I used 7 larger ones)
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Heat oven to 350°F. Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. In a larger bowl, cream butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until fluffy and light in color. Add the eggs, one at a time and scraping down the bowl, then the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.
Spoon batter into an ungreased 9-inch springform pan and smooth the top. Arrange the plums, skin side up, all over the batter, covering it. Sprinkle the top with lemon juice, then cinnamon, then remaining sugar.
Bake until cake is golden and a toothpick inserted into a center part of the cake comes clean, about 45 to 50 minutes. Cool on rack. Sit back and wait for the compliments to roll in!